By Rex Enabulele, Abuja
Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would have called for the dissolution of the Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) on Monday over the panel’s foot-dragging on the national convention but President Muhammadu Buhari’s timely intervention saved the day.
The CECPC had Monday intended to conduct its zonal congress on March 26, 2022, informing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the earlier convention slated for February 26, 2022, would no longer hold. In a letter signed by the chairman, APC Caretaker Committee (Buni) and secretary (John Akpanudoedehe), the party had explained to the commission that the new congress would supersede the earlier letter. Buni is also the governor of Yobe State.
In the letter dated February 21, 2022, marked APC/NHDQ/INEC/019/22/21, the CECPC had indicated to hold a zonal congress first in compliance with its constitution. The letter entitled, ‘Notice for the Conduct of Zonal Congress,’ read in part: “This notice supersedes our earlier notice for a national convention referenced APC/NHDQ/ INEC/019/22/14. This is predicated on the evaluation of our party constitution.” The Trumpet gathered that the CECPC’s letter to INEC ‘’provoked angry reactions’’ from many of the APC governors, who had vowed to sack the Buni-led committee; and quickly summoned an emergency meeting in Abuja to discuss the issues. An insider said that the governors’ plot got the attention of Buhari, who was said to have summoned Governor Buni and directed him to fix the national convention for March 26, in order to pacify his colleagues.
The President’s directive was said to have prompted the committee to go into an emergency closed-door meeting to resolve the crises. ‘’Before the President’s directive, Governor Buni was also under immense pressure from the leaders, members and few caretaker committee members of the party to shape up or ship out,’’ the insider said.
Consequently, Akpanudoedehe who is the National Secretary of the party, later announced that after the closed-door meeting, preparations for the national convention would commence on March 24, 2022. Also, the zonal congresses will hold before the national convention slated for March 26, 2022. According to him: “After deliberation and agreement with the CECPC, we have agreed and approved that the activities of the national Convention commence from March 24 and terminate on March 26.
“The convention activities commence on February 24, and it will terminate at Eagles Square on March 26. In between the Convention, we have agreed to have zonal congresses.” Party insiders are pointing at Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma, his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello, Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and a few others as the arrowheads of those pushing for a postponement of the convention. According to party sources, Uzodinma and Bello were the ones orchestrating the postponement because they were said to be comfortable with the current caretaker committee through which they have been able to push many agenda and were therefore striving hard to ensure they stall the convention. “Isn’t it unfortunate that people, who had no idea how this party came about are the ones causing the current commotion in our party? Can you imagine Hope and Bello holding the party to ransom over completely self-serving reasons, which do not even align with collective interest?
“Why is the chairman acting as if he is not in charge? The whole thing is just disappointing and honestly, I’m ashamed how the governors allowed two people without a stake in the party to drive them to this shameful station,” said the party source.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday mocked APC over its inability to conduct a routine convention, saying it has further explained why all sectors of the national life have been shambolic under the ‘’incompetent, corrupt, rudderless and overtly confused’’ ruling administration.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said that the APC’s postponement of its convention again validates the opposition’s stance that the ruling political grouping was not a party but a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of strange bed fellows, “political buccaneers and ferocious power mongers on a mission to wreck the nation.’’ It stressed: “The APC is a perfect example of failure both as a party and government unable to conduct a simple National Convention in two years.
It has become a Russian Roulette with unending request for extension of time to undertake a routine statutory political activity. “Our Party is not surprised that the APC, a party of backstabbers, again postponed its National Convention already scheduled for February 26, 2022. It is rather saddening how a set of confused, greedy, deceitful, hard heartened and self-centered individuals who cannot run a creditable organization foisted themselves in power and plunged our nation into the economic, security and social mess that we face today.”
The opposition party said that Nigerians are yearning for the return of good governance with it so that they can again be secure, enjoy economic prosperity, infrastructural development, employment, food security and national cohesion which they experienced in the 16 years of the PDP in power. Meanwhile, Malam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has disclosed that the 22 APC governors were sharply divided over the actual date for the convention. El-Rufai along with his colleagues in the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) spoke with journalists at State House, Abuja after a 15-minute meeting with Buhari. He emphasized that they were divided over the timing of the convention as some believe that there were many issues left unresolved.
The governor, who was responding to a question, said: “Yes, we were divided over the timing of the convention, okay. There were some governors that felt that we should put off the convention until we resolve all the congress’s issues in some states. “As you know, in some states, these matters are even in court. So, some governors held the view that we should wait until all these are resolved. And this is not borne out of any agenda or selfishness. It is just a realistic proposition to avoid us violating any laws or putting our party structures of elected candidates in danger.
“So yes, there were differences in opinion about timing. Some of us are saying the Constitution allows us to have convention even if three or four states have issues that are unresolved, while others are saying no, let us finish all the reconciliations and we do this convention. After all, there is no time limit for the convention as long as we do it before the time for the primaries.” But he stated that in a democratic setting, there is no way you can have 22 governors plus the deputy governor of Anambra State agreeing on any issue.
He, however, explained that after their meeting last night, to deliberate on the proposal by the national caretaker committee, and their briefing with the President, they are all on the same page. The Kaduna governor also disclosed that the APC has agreed on a zoning formula that will swap offices held between north and south. By the arrangement, all offices that were occupied by northerners in the last eight years, will go to the south and vice versa in the coming dispensation. El-Rufai spoke further: “we have agreed a zoning formula for all the six geo-political zones.
Essentially, northern zone will have the positions the south have had in the last eight years. And vice versa. “It is a very simple, equitable and fair formula. We will now go back and consult at the zonal level and look at the positions that are available and the process of the convention preparation we started in earnest. “So, by the grace of God, on the 26th of March, we would have done our national convention.” Also speaking, chairman of the PGF and governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, revealed that Buhari supports consensus to select candidates for party offices. “Mr. President reminded us that we have produced a number of national chairmen by consensus. Baba Akande emerged as the pioneer chairman of the party by consensus; His Excellency John Odigie-Oyegun emerged by consensus.
His Excellency Adams Oshiomhole emerged by consensus. “So, he is a believer in consensus as one of the options of producing leadership, and he urged us to explore consensus, so that we can generate list. “While recognizing in that many people who have indicated interest are equally competent, but knowing that just one person will occupy the office, consensus is part of our constitution and he urged us to work towards consensus”, he stated. Bagudu explained that even though the planned zonal congresses of the APC is not provided for in its constitution, the law is also not against the process.
His words: “On proposed zonal congresses not in the constitution, I think there has been so much debate. Yesterday (Monday), there was a statement to the effect that even the letter that has gone out was withdrawn. “So, zonal congresses are not explicitly stated in the constitution, particularly how you do zonal congresses. And we have in the past done them with national convention. “But, nothing again in the Constitution stops them from being done outside the national convention. But the final form will be decided, given the input we have provided.” Chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Plateau State helmsman, Simon Lalong, stated that the ruling party will not collapse at the end of Buhari’s era.
According to him: “I think that from the progress report, read by our chairman, and from several assumptions, and also several reports, that we’re seeing what tremendous efforts the Federal Government is doing. “Again, we’re already going around commissioning projects here and there in all the various states.” Nineteen of the 22 APC governors attended the meeting held at the Council Chambers, which also had in attendance Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.
The governors included those of Yobe, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Cross River, Kaduna, Lagos, Borno, Niger, Gombe, Osun, Kebbi, Anambra dep, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kano, Imo, Kogi, Ogun, and Plateau states.